Sometimes you have a chance encounter with a picture of yours from a different era, and it is like being introduced to your Neanderthal twin from a different world. An emaciated look, sallow eyes, with the only thing worse than your sense of makeup is your sense of dressing, when wearing oversized tee shirts or yellow skirts were in vogue. You look at yourself from the past and wonder, who is this obnoxious creature? I guess it is okay to make fun of oneself publicly. I had one such chance encounter, but not with a picture of mine from the past. Well, it was a picture sort of, but more of my academic achievements, or the lack of it. I happened to bump into my first ever written Curriculum Vitae (CV), and it was like having a glimpse of the outdated, backdated, anything but the glamorous past.
The first time I had ever made a CV for myself was maybe 7 years ago, when I had suddenly had the desperate realization that I will be out of college soon and will need to fend for myself. The dreams for America had just started to take shape, and an impressive resume seemed like a good idea to make initial contact with the aliens. Yeah, the feeling was something akin to that. The only trouble was, there was nothing much impressive for me to show off. No summer internship, no fellowship, no real research experience. However, something had to be written, and that was what I did. Over the next few months, the resume was forwarded to a hundred different professors across American universities, of course after some serious feedback from the seniors. Then, my life witnessed a series of disastrous phenomenon of computers crashing, email ids getting hacked, and various other cyber wreckages, and I lost my first ever written CV. After years, a fortuitous phenomenon happened and I got back a copy of my CV from the hinterlands of don’t-ask-me-where. For the next few hours of my life, I sat there wide eyed, looking at the wreckage from a disaster movie my CV looked like.
It started with a very confused-looking (also known as boka boka in Bengali) picture of mine (who gives their pictures in CVs?) with that desperate look on my face, begging to come to the US. What was I thinking, they would take one look at my beautiful face and let me in? Then came the information no one cared about. Address. Telephone number. Father’s name. Ancestral property’s location. Name of the first pet. Some of these are exaggerated of course, but I will leave it to you to figure it out. What, were they going to write me letters? The next “ahem” part was, well, “Sex: Female”. It seems I did not have the distinction between sex and gender back then, but more importantly, who cared? I am impressed I did not mention caste,
mother tongue native language, and the name of ancestral village.
Then came the “Biographical Information”, which was fine I guess, but for the parenthesis that said, “In reverse chronological order”. Yeah, as if the order mattered, and more importantly, as if it was rocket science to figure out what order things were in. Of course, every institution I attended had to be listed with the “marks obtained”, because how can one trust the transcripts of my great university, assuming the transcripts reached them on time? Then started the actual meat of the CV thankfully, institutions attended, random projects undertaken, with the mention of everything, from killing a mosquito in the lab to growing bacteria on abandoned lunch from last week. Even things like “had 95% attendance in class”, “recited nursery rhymes 28 years ago”, “sung a song on Teachers’ Day”, or “could eat during class without getting caught” found an apt place in the CV. Then there were awards and accolades. “Stood 10th out of
20 innumerable students in ICSE”, “won awards in debates and calligraphy” (who cares?), or “sat through boring seminars” would find a place as well. If only the keyboard had not taken over pen and paper, my calligraphy skills would have found me a great job in the industry. If this was not insult enough to my academic achievements (or the lack of it), there would be a separate section dedicated to extracurricular activities, because being a house caption, an indispensible member of the sewing club, writing rhyming poems, singing songs on Tagore’s birth day, or anchoring soporific events should also count. Not to mention learning 10,000 words from Barron’s, or writing research reports that would never see the light of the publisher’s shop.
Whether I like it or not, this will be an indelible part of what I was. It took years of grooming, feedback, and doing some actual research to build my credentials in the field, and to evolve as a professional. To put it differently, the present me is because that was the past me. I looked at my old CV with a mixture of both love and hatred. Is this who I used to be? Desperate to get recognition even for a seminar I attended and slept through? Or collecting chunks of tiger poop in the name of a scat encounter survey study? Was I hoping my experience with being a part of the nature club, or having a good handwriting was about to get me admitted into a good school?
Yeah, I know we all have to start somewhere, and build from there. Just that early men did not have that polish doesn’t mean they were any less successful in their environment. However, call me smug, arrogant, thankless, whatever, but it doesn’t hurt to make fun of thy own once in a while. Except that 10 years down the line, I would be reading my current CV and laughing again. “Went to Vancouver B.C. to attend a talk on the mating habits of the Hominidae family”. Who cares?